The Asian Equation

Do you know what’s worse than being a single woman in her 40s who lives at home with her parents, has mental health issues and an alcohol problem? A single woman in her 40s who lives at home with her parents, has mental health issues, an alcohol problem AND is Indian.

I mean when I look at my life situation it’s almost laughable. Single, never married, lives at home with her parents, unsuccessful career, ugly mental health history, ex-problem drinker gone sober, not a penny to her name…the list goes on.

I think I’ve been the talk of our sad little town since the day I brought home by first boyfriend at the age of 17, who by the way just happened to be white. Any of you who know my family now will be confused as to why this was an issue but life in our household was very different 20 odd years ago.

Anyway the details of that are irrelevant. My point is in the eyes of many I was the epitome of the black sheep. The failure. The shameful embarrassment. I often joked that if people were going to talk about me I’d give them something to talk about. I clearly didn’t think that would be the case but that bleeding universe is always listening and I obviously manifested my sad and pathetic fate.

Before I go on this has nothing to do with judgement from my parents. My Mum and Dad could not be more supportive if they tried. In the early days the choices me and my sisters made were a bit different then they would have initially hoped for. But they wanted for nothing more than our happiness so they supported us in everything.

I grew up like most people with the pressure of society weighing down heavy on shoulders. Do well at school, go to university, get a good job, get married, buy a house and give your parents some grandkids. I think we can all agree that this is a load of crap. But if you are anything like me you will have thought that but still kinda wanted it anyway. Now for me I had the added joy of being Indian. So take all of the stuff that society expects, stick brackets around them and there you have it, the Asian equation.

Now the theory behind this is two fold. Do what is expected but do it better than most. And do it the Indian way. As second generation immigrants we come from families that worked hard to give us the best start in life in a country that was not home. My parents wanted us to do well because they knew that as British Asians we would need to work that extra bit harder in order to be seen amongst our white peers. But the unspoken rules in most Indian families is to maintain your cultural traditions, go to university but come straight home after, find a respectable job and then get married to someone who is suitable, have children and don’t be the subject of any gossip. The End. This is obviously just a very short generalised version but in most cases not far from the truth.

I did not do that. I was not expected to do that. But that doesn’t mean the stigma didn’t exist. I think the worst part for me was perhaps I didn’t care what other people thought but I did care about what people may have been saying about my family; specifically my parents. There would have been rumours and gossip when me and my sisters all went off back packing on our own, when my sister married her white Australian husband, when we all moved overseas. Asian girls don’t do that sort of thing you see.

But even then my parents were proud of us. We were doing seemingly well, following what we through were our dreams and not causing too much of a nuisance. But black sheep Shaena over here decided it was time to shake things up a bit and what followed was ten years of hell for them and the rest of my family. My struggles with mental health started in my early 20s but I’d managed to keep them fairly under control. Things took a sharp turn when I was in Australia after I went through some difficult shit that my head and heart just couldn’t cope with. From that day on and for the next 8 years things were not pretty.

I’ve talked about my suicide attempts, hospital admissions, alcohol abuse before. I don’t hide away from it, I see no use in that. It may seem I talk about everything like it’s no big deal. It of course is. It’s a huge deal but I also know that it is way more common than you might think. Sometimes when we find ourselves drowning we think we are so far out at sea we can’t be saved. We don’t see the lifelines, in fact in some cases we don’t want to see them. We are drowning and we just think it might be easier to stop treading water, give in and sink.

You might be reading this thinking surely didn’t have it that bad. I didn’t. I know that, but when you are in the middle of all your failures, bad decisions, mistakes; feeling alone and insignificant, it is one hell of a horrible place. You can’t see past any of it and the voices inside your head won’t let you forget about. You spend the entire time trying to numb the pain and shut out the noise. It’s a bloody tiring past time I tell you.

The stigma around mental health however hard we try to erase it, still exists. More than we like to admit. Yes we talk about it more openly, but that doesn’t mean some people just don’t get it. And sadly, in Asian culture it’s still very much a taboo subject. I don’t know the exact reasons why but I think like most things not spoken about in our culture it comes down to shame. For a long time I’ve never really understood this but I realised today it’s always about one thing. Your marriage material rating.

I don’t think people would admit to it in this day and age but one of the biggest priorities in Asian culture is marriage. As a female that means you should ideally have the following:

• A good education;

• An aesthetically pleasing look (sorry, but it’s true!).

• A respectable family background (no skeletons).

• A good set of Indian culinary skills.

• An understanding of cultural traditions.

• A decent job.

These are just a few of the things that are taken into consideration. There are more of course and the importance of these will vary amongst families and communities. I am lucky, my family are more concerned with ‘is this person the right fit for you?’, and not ‘is this person the right fit for us?’ This does not however take away from the fact that in my culture this is what people look at and think about even if they don’t want to admit it.

So back to mental health; well I don’t think mentally unstable bodes well for matrimonial purposes. You might think I’m over reacting but I kid you not, if someone is known to have mental health issues they are looked upon as a bit crazy and no one wants that in the family because they will be the talk of the town. So that’s one black mark against me. And the drinking? Well, it’s not prohibited but it’s certainly not ideal if you’re a big party animal. Females drink, but mostly they do this discreetly and stick to lady like drinks. So to have a drinking problem well, that’s not just a black mark against my name, nah that’s just my name painted over in tar!

Thing is I don’t care about all this stuff. I’m not looking for a nice Indian family to marry into. I’m not looking for any family to marry into at all. In fact, it was the looking for things that triggered the mental health and alcohol issues. Looking to fit in (in a general sense), looking for acceptance, looking for love and looking for happiness. Looking for things outside of yourself leads is futile. It’s taken me a while and a shit tonne of pain and heartache (not just my own) to realise this. If you feel like something is missing, like there’s something more to find then stop for a minute and look inside yourself. There are lots of ways to do this and I have tried many of them. However this is not the post to discuss that. This is about me and my reign as Stigma Queen.

STIGMA (noun) – A mark disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person.

Who decided what is a disgrace and what isn’t? Who decided that not having a successful career, being unmarried by 40, not having kids, still living at home, who decided this was a disgrace? Who had the audacity to decide that mental illness, addiction, debt and the like is a disgrace? Clearly this is not the fault of a single person; instead its years and years of people’s opinions as to what is acceptable and what is not. It is also the result of a ‘them and us’ mentality, which we know is still very prevalent today.

This subject area is so big that I don’t know where it starts and ends. For me it started at a very young age. And it has gone on for too long. But it ends here and it ends now. Because for every black mark against my name is a story. A story, a lesson learned and a path forged. But it’s my story, my lesson and a path on my frickin journey so the rest of my community and the rest of the world can think whatever the f*ck they want.

Mental illness, medication and me.

Today, a friend posted on Instagram about her recent struggles and how her mental health has deteriorated enough to warrant new medication. She was already taking anti anxiety meds and how now been put on an anti-depressant of sorts; I know this because I’ve been prescribed both in the past. Anyway having only known her a short time I have seen how she’s gone from being quite guarded about her struggles with alcohol and her mental health to opening up and sharing her journey in such a brave and beautiful way.

On the flip side I was talking to another one of my new sober pals this week and she was telling me about how bad her anxiety gets. I have suffered from anxiety in the past but nowhere near as severe as this. It made me sad for her. Knowing that your thoughts can become so intrusive and debilitating that you start to believe the most ridiculous things that then impact your daily life. Anxiety is not just getting stressed and worrying, it can be so much bigger and scarier then that. When I asked her if she had seen her GP about it, she said she was worried they would think she was crazy. I didn’t like that she would even consider using those words but then I remembered how I often used to call myself crazy when I was with friends. It was a way to make light of something that was actually pretty frightening and serious.

Anyway the point of this post is to actually tell you about my experience with mental health and medication. I’ve been on and off medication for about the last 10 years or so. I’ve been on a variety of different things, mostly antidepressants, occasionally meds for my anxiety and once I was even on a lovely cocktail of stuff for my depression, panic attacks and insomnia. Over the years my thoughts on taking medication for my mental health has varied. There are times when I’ve been prescribed something and been reluctant to take it. Times when I’ve been so desperate for some sort of respite for my mind and haven’t given my prescription a second thought. Almost every time though, when I have gotten to the point of stability, when my moods are less turbulent I’ve always slowly come off what ever I was taking. I think the reasons were based on a mix of the physical affects of the medication but also the idea of having to be on them.

I have been on my current meds for a little over 2 years now. I am taking Sertraline and up until last month I was on the maximum dose. Now bearing in mind that they probably weren’t even doing what they should have been doing while I was drinking, I’ve probably only really had the full benefits for the past 6 months. Still, I made the decision last month that I wanted to start decreasing my dose with the hope that eventually I will not need them. That was until a few days ago.

Glennon Doyle was someone I hadn’t heard of until earlier this year when I saw the front cover of her new book, Untamed plastered all over instagram. At first I thought it was just another quit-lit type affair which I’m not against but doesn’t quite float my boat all that much; so I didn’t really think anything of it. But more and more people were declaring it a ‘must read’, so last week I used one of my free credits and got the audible version. The verdict: not quit-lit, but instead a compilation of stories and life lessons which I think most of us would benefit from hearing about. There was a little too much motherhood talk in there; which obviously is no bad thing but just not something I can really relate to. Some people think it’s a bit heavy on religion but that part didn’t bother me, in fact I love learning about people’s faiths because I’m a bit weird like that. Anyway the point I am trying to get to is she talks about her mental health and medication. She made a really good point in that why would we decide to stop using something that is making us feel better. Surely the point is that it’s working and to stop it would leave you at risk of suffering again. This made me think about the times I’d come off my medication after months of feeling better only to relapse and sometimes find myself in even worse of a situation.

One thing I want to make clear is that I’m not someone who would opt for medication if there are other options. The idea of filling my body with chemicals I know very little about doesn’t bode well with me. And don’t worry the irony of that statement isn’t lost on me, I clearly didn’t include alcohol in that category for many years. But I live in different times now and having removed one of the biggest toxins from my life I am much more cautious about the other things that go into my body. So I am very much open to healing of a different nature and undergo regular reiki therapy courtesy of my lovely Dad and I practice meditation. And of course there’s what I believe to be one of the best medicines out there; the art of conversation. Therapy is in my opinion underrated and should be considered by everyone whether they think they need it or not. I think people would be pleasantly surprised by the benefits of talking to someone about their life, even if just to use the other person as a sounding board.

Basically what I think I’m trying to say is that don’t see medication as too much of a big deal when it comes to mental health. If you have tried alternatives and have seen little improvement then just be open to the idea. At least go and talk to the GP about it. They can’t force you to take anything and even I on many occasions have come home with a prescription and never had the medication dispensed because I’ve decided against it. So whilst I don’t think my mental health has ever been this good I have decided that I will stay on my lower dose for the time being…and possibly forever. Because right now, that coupled with the other things I do seems to be working really well. So I see no reason to change it.

Vulnerability is…

“ She threw away all of her masks and put on her soul” ~ anon

Being open and honest is something a lot of people struggle with. Vulnerability is not for the faint hearted. It’s scary AF but what I’ve realised is that without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in certain situations we are always going to be holding back. Not being who we really are.

The need to be seen is increasing all of the time. People want to be noticed, want their voices heard, their wins to be applauded, and their pain and suffering to at least be acknowledged if not understood. The whole world is screaming ‘but what about me?’. Has it always been like this or is it that we are all so busy in our own lives to even notice what’s going on around us?

Vulnerability probably means something different to everyone. For me it’s opening myself up to hurt and ridicule. Which sounds bloody ridiculous because on some level I consider myself an open book. But I also think that comes from years of therapy and my empathic need to help others. As a child I was very much the opposite, no one knew what was going on in my head. In fact, I was so shy I barely spoke. Go figure!

Now I share a lot. On my social media, through my blog and with friends. And yeah it’s personal stuff and some people don’t understand why I feel the need to do this. Am I over sharing? Is it attention seeking? Or am I just trying to be real? To be honest, I hadn’t thought that much about it until this week when I was listening to my new audio book, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (obsessed!). The whole book is about vulnerability; what it is to be vulnerable, the ways in which it shows up and it’s necessity.

Do we really need to bare all? Well of course we bloody don’t. Everyone has the right to be as private as they like and people don’t need (or want) to hear all about your dirty secrets. But if you want people to really know you, I’m afraid you’re going to have to open up a bit. But being vulnerable is more then just opening up. Being vulnerable is going for your dream job knowing that there’s a chance you might not get it. Telling your best friend that you want to be more then friends without knowing if they feel the same. It’s telling people you no longer drink alcohol because you mostly drank to drown out the demons screaming in your head and those demons were getting louder and required more drowning out as time went on. All of these things are you putting yourself out there, letting yourself be seen but knowing that the potential to get hurt, disappointment, judged or worse…dismissed is there.

So how do you know what to open up about and what not to? I think it comes down to knowing why. What’s the purpose behind you sharing? Is it to help others? To improve your life? Of course you can share what ever you like but that doesn’t mean you are being vulnerable. You need courage to be vulnerable so if you’re just sharing something and it’s not affecting you emotionally I’d say you’re probably just trying to seek attention. And I’m not saying that’s bad because there are times when we need to be grabbing peoples attention. But that’s not vulnerability.

I think vulnerability also comes from caring a lot about what it is you’re doing or how you are showing up. For me this blog is me being vulnerable. I love to write, I think my written word is more powerful than when I talk on video for example. I try to write about things I think people will relate to, things that make people feel less alone in the world. While at the same time just simply writing about my thoughts and experiences. The truth is I’d love to write professionally but the thought terrifies me and I’d have to step even further into the vulnerability arena to find out if I’m good enough…and I’m not ready to do that just yet!

Basically I think vulnerability is taking a leap into uncertainty. It’s baring your soul not knowing how it will be received. It can be the biggest and best game changer ever. Or could leave you so badly bruised you recoil once more. All I know is that despite me having spent so much of my life recoiling I know that I have to keep trying and putting myself back out there because if I don’t, well I may as well just stay in bed for the rest of my life. And I just don’t think there’s enough on Netflix for me to maintain that kind of lifestyle, you know?

Why aren’t you crying anymore?

Because the goal posts have changed. Because the further along I get on this journey, the more I’m realising something. It’s all bullshit. Everything.

*Buckle up, this is a long one*

All that we learn. All that we are told. All that we believe. All that we think is right or wrong. All bigger than a pile of dinosaur crap. If I even begin to try and explain what I mean we’d end up going down a fuck off rabbit hole and I don’t know about you but I’ve only just pulled myself out of Britney’s one and don’t even get me started on online furniture stores!

What I will say is this. Intuition is the most underused power we have. That gut feeling is real and if we listening to it more I think we’d be living very different lives. How many times have you not trusted your gut enough and ended up seeking outside validation? Asking others for opinions? You cloud your conscience with outside noise and go against what you think or feel. And then you kick yourself after. Well, stop kicking yourself. Stop living with regret.

This week In my first module at the Boss Life Business Academy we covered the topic that most business training courses start off with. Why? Why are you here? Why that vision? Why you’re doing what you’re doing? But this time it was different. Laura (my coach) said that in a lot of cases when asked that question people are told that ‘if your why doesn’t make you cry it’s not big enough’. In other words it’s not going to be a strong enough driving force. At the start I felt that, I really did. And when I first really dug deep and ‘peeled back the layers’, the underlining ‘why’ did make me cry. But that was well over 8 months ago.

Am I crying now? No. Now I’m all fired up and quite honestly a bit pissed off. Because like I said, it’s all just BS. When I joined my network marketing company my eyes were opened massively to social conditioning, how society has put limitations on us without us even realising and how much we seek outside validation in almost everything. And it’s true, it really is. And it’s frustrating when you realise that the reason you’ve been miserable your entire life is because you tried to fit in when you didn’t have to.

But here’s the…I was going to write tea then and I stopped myself. I hate that phrase. Who invented it? I’ve said it myself I’ll admit but that’s what I mean, I was going to write it because it’s what everyone else says and I thought it would make me sound down with the kids. So enough of that shit. Where was I? Here’s the…fuck, now I don’t know what word fits. Let’s just move on…

You are now all of a sudden hearing all these new things and idealism’s and before you know it you’re following a new narrative. Just because this new mass of people are telling you this is ‘the new way, the better way’. I’m not saying they are wrong, in fact I completely agree with them but before you know it you get swept up in it all and you start to believe that this is the only way. When we know it’s not the only way. Because we were doing it differently before and had we not been told this we would have carried on in the old way. Miserable as fuck maybe. But we’d have carried on.

What I’m trying to say is the right thing and the right way is whatever you want it to be. You get to choose. If you choose the to work for someone else and it brings in enough money for you and your family to love the life you want then carry on. If that’s not your bag and you live for adventure and freedom then find a way to earn money as you travel the world. If you want extravagant and elaborate then you’re probably going to have have your fingers in more than one pie but if you’re ok with that then go for it my friend. You do you! Stop listening to the outside noise.

And me, my new why? I have a network marketing company that will get me to my end goal. I don’t think there’s anything bad about the business model. I love the products and only buy what I use. Because fact is they are expensive. But they also last ages, are incredible, do what they say on the tin and are good for us and the planet so I’m not going to argue over that. But I am building this business for one reason. Money. And if anyone says that’s not why they do this then they’re lying. Because it’s the money that will give me the opportunity to do what I really want to do. So no, I’m not in my dream life or career. I’m using this company to get me there. They tell you that this is your vehicle to get you where you want to go but fail to tell you that the vehicle has dual controls and if you let them they’ll take over. So I’m taking my vehicle back and doing things my way.

They say that most people in network marketing end up walking away having lost money. I actually understand where they’re coming from. You don’t HAVE to buy a bunch of products in this business but you are definitely encouraged to. If you don’t you’re told that you’re not serious enough about it, you’re not being a good brand ambassador, put it on a credit card you’ll make it back in no time’. Bullshit! This is your business do what the hell you want. I’m not saying you’re more likely to succeed but if spending money you don’t have on products makes you feel uncomfortable then don’t do it. If you’re told that not attending every team training call means you’re not showing up for your business, screw them! Only you know what is right for your business and you are entitled to do things your way. Don’t do things someone else’s way and then walk away pissed off that it didn’t work. That’s where the negativity comes from. If I walked away from this company even now I wouldn’t slag it off having not succeeded. Whatever the outcome my experience is my experience. My last company I worked for basically pushed me out because of my mental health. I think they call that discrimination! But I’m not there writing articles and posts on social media about how poisonous they are. They fucked up with me, not the entire work force.

And don’t do what I did and start spouting all the crap you’re fed because everyone is saying the same thing and it makes us all sound like a bunch of idiotic robots. Whether it’s true or not just stop. Use your own words. Listen and learn but then decide what you align with and share that to your people in your own way. Not the way your upline told you.

This is beginning to sound like I hate network marketing and the company I’m with. I don’t. Not at all. I enjoy what I do and making a success of this is anyone’s game and it gives you a whole bucket load of opportunity. But I don’t see it as the world I belong in. It’s just one that I found and one I get to pass through on my way to where I’m really going. And if anyone were to join me that’s what I’d tell them. You have to like the way the company model works and you have to like what you are offering people. But you still get to do this your way. I will not make you do anything you don’t want to. I will lead by example and by experience and it’s up to you how you choose to follow.

We’re in the rabbit hole aren’t we? Shit, sorry!

Ok one last thing as we head to above ground level and can breathe again normally.

One short life. That’s all we get on this planet. At least that’s what we know (don’t worry I’m staying clear of that rabbit hole). So please, don’t do yourself an injustice by doing things that don’t feel right for you. If you don’t like it then take that as a sign it’s not for you. No one has to just carry on regardless, if you stay stuck in your unfulfilled life for too long you’ll end up like me attending A.A. meetings on a Friday night. Just sayin…

So no, I’m not crying anymore. Because I haven’t got time to cry. I’m on a mission to get everyone to follow their OWN narrative

Em-proud

Yes it’s a word. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Okay don’t, it’s clearly not a word but I couldn’t decide between proud and empowered so I went with both.

I can’t remember the last time I felt genuinely proud of myself. Not just an ‘I did good’ or pat on the back type proud. But a fuck yeah, bring a tear to your own eye proud. I think maybe when I got my last ‘proper’ job there may have been a little internal jump for joy but not like this.

Yesterday marked 6 months since I last had an alcoholic beverage. Before that I was the lush of the group (the boozy kind not the fancy kind). Not that I was really part of any groups per se, more just the one who was always first at the bar, cracking open the first bottle or the first to finish her drink in most social situations. Those who knew me well though knew that I drank not just for merriment, but mostly because I was sad. The self loathing, you’re a piece of shit kinda sad.

For me, sobriety was always lurking; in my mind and in the hopes of others. Did I think I’d get to six months? Actually, yeah I didn’t think that would be a problem. What has surprised me is how easy and stress free I’ve found it. Now I’m not one for complacency and I know that sobriety becomes more challenging when you actually leave the house and surround yourself with ‘normal’ drinkers. This is not something I’ve actively avoided but lockdown has obviously made socialising difficult. And most of my good friends don’t live local to me. But in an effort to not become a hermit I need to find some sober people to hang out with.

So em-proud moment number 2! I joined a group called Bee Sober and I’m now the Ambassador for my local area which means I pretty much get to start my own group of likeminded ex-lushes and you know, do sober stuff together. I’m really excited about it, mostly because it means I’m getting braver. I’m feeling confident enough to say ‘yeah, I can do that’. I’m taking the lead on something because I want to and know I am capable. Look at me go! And it doesn’t stop there either!

Em-proud moment number 3! What do you do when the toxic energy in your life is coming from a source that encourages the removal of toxic vibes? You remove it of course. I stepped away from something big in my business last week. It was something I was led to believe I needed and wouldn’t succeed without. But as time went on I started to realise it was holding me back and having a detrimental affect on my business mindset. So I dug deep, found my empowerment spray, gave myself a quick spritz, got the backing of my coach (I’m still learning ok?!) and I waved goodbye to the toxicity. And wow did it feel good. So of course I was clearly buzzing and as the 6 month anniversary was rolling in I decided to take a few more big steps.

I’ve been toying with an idea for a few months now. Its something that has only come about because of my Arbonne business, my sobriety and from the massive personal growth spurt I’ve had. I’ve been through a lot of shit. I’m not trying to compete with anyone else and their shit, I just know mine pushed me to my limits on several occasions. And despite the attempts to give up on this one life I have, I’m still here. And not only here but I’m now not taking anymore shit. Or at least I’m trying not to. And that shit includes outside pressures, expectations, energy stealers, all that kind of BS that messes with your head. AND so for my em-proud moment number 4, I’m going to help the Shaena’s of the world, the lost souls who thought they’d done everything right only to end up hopeless and confused. I’m going to help women like me find their way, live life on their own terms and not take any shit. I’m going to make them em-proud!!! Although first I have to go do a course which starts in a few weeks, but yay me!

And yay to me being em-proud.

But I thought you were doing better?

So did I, so did I…

And I am, but doesn’t mean I don’t feel the not so good days. And now I really feel them. Like intensely. Without alcohol I feel everything.

This weekend something felt off. I didn’t start my day as I usually do. There was no meditating, no connecting with my higher self and no visualising a beach or a meadow. I figured one day ‘off’ wouldn’t hurt, except that it’s not something I need to take a day off from because I enjoy doing it so that was definitely a massive faux pas on my part.

So my day continued, I felt deeply un-zen like but Disney’s Aladdin was on TV so it wasn’t all that bad. After I’d finished my magic carpet ride I decided to pick up a drawing project I’d started when I was in India. When lockdown started I couldn’t get the art supplies (posh paper) I needed so I put it to one side and just assumed I’d find my wanna be artist vibe again at some point. Turns out some point was Saturday.

It was a pleasant couple of hours because the rents were in another room and I was blasting some killer tunes; and by killer I mean the likes of Carly Simon (you’re so vain) and The Boss (Badlands). I know, I know I have THE best taste in music. Born in the wrong decade possibly, but still!

It was my turn to cook dinner on Saturday so I made a start early because I quite like having the kitchen to myself. Nothing fancy, just a roast chicken dinner and a vegetable pie for my Dad. But I never keep things simple and of course had to make the pie from scratch (pastry included) and have proper roasties. We are not the traditional Sunday roast type people so on the odd occasion we do make a roast dinner we tend to go a bit overboard for a midweek (or in this case a Saturday night) dinner. So anyway, I cooked, we ate and then we retired to the drawing room and finished the evening with cigars and a single malt. Obviously not, in fact I think I barely sat around before I decided to go up to bed.

Having not meditated in the morning and with my head still in a bit of a funk I decided I’d give it another go. I’d also read something about a lion and gate being very significant in the astrology realm so I found something fitting on YouTube and closed my eyes and went on my search for the lion and the gate. For those who are interested this is the guided meditation I followed Lions Gate, I found the experience quite incredible actually so give it a try if it’s your thing.

Doing anything remotely relaxing at night time normally sends me off to the land of nod pretty quickly these days but on Saturday those bloody negativity gremlins started whispering in my ear didn’t they?! Little fuckers with their creepy sniggering and giggling. I needed a distraction so I consulted Amazon Prime and it came up with the goods. A very interesting documentary about the civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland. Look it up, it’s an excellent watch – An Ordinary Hero. That was another big sign that I wasn’t feeling joyful as I tend to find comfort in dark depressing documentaries or episodes of Greys Anatomy that are particular sad when I feel like shit. So I watched about an hour before eventually falling asleep.

Yesterday morning I woke up and instead of learning my lesson from the day before I again decided not to doing any of my usual morning stuff. I didn’t even journal and I really should have. Because I knew what was bothering me and I needed to get it out my head before it started to fester and grow arms and legs. But I didn’t did I? No, because I’m an idiot.

I knew I wasn’t going to get anything productive done so I opted to chill in my room, finish watching my documentary and write content for my blog. None of that happened, instead I napped. It was a good nap. My mind rested and the gremlins stopped laughing at me for a little while.

Didn’t do much for the rest of the day. Went outside for a bit to collect worms for my mums compost bin. That was fun. I like worms. Watched a bit of TV, had dinner and then sat in the conservatory with Louis and finished my art project…again with some cracking tunes. I then ended up having a good cry because, well I’m not sure to be honest. I just felt like there was this immense pressure building up in me and I needed to let it out. So I cried. It helped.

I don’t want to go into what happened that put me in such a weird headspace all weekend. What I do want to say is that even when you’re in a stronger place mentally it doesn’t take much for something or someone to make you wobble. And for anyone who has struggled with their mental health, self sabotaging thoughts and anxiety you’ll know that a wobble can spiral very quickly. And 6 months ago I definitely would have spun out, fast. I would have resorted to alcohol which would have led to more self destructive behavior and I’d be feeling ten times worse today.

So yes, just because I’m doing better doesn’t mean I don’t get knocked down or hurt. Yes I’m stronger but I’m also still a very sensitive person. And life is particularly confusing right now so try not to be a shitty person. Especially to those that don’t deserve it.

A day in the life of… Part II

So we left off just after breakfast. Where I attempted to redeem myself with nutrition supplements and vitamins after my cheesy beans on toast…god that was good.

Now a little bit about my home life before I go on. As previously mentioned I live at home with my parents. This is something that for a long time I hated having to fess up to. But not anymore. You see I did move out, almost immediately after university. It was December 2004 and I’d just gotten my first proper job up in Manchester. For the next 4 years I flitted about a bit; Manchester, back to Liverpool (where I went to uni) and then all the way down to London. I then got a bit bored of working so sacked it all off and went backpacking on my own for 6 months. But that’s a whole other post in itself.

When I returned with my grubby backpack wearing hareem pants and a tonne of beaded jewellery; the recession resulted in me not being able to find a decent job. So I lived at home again for a couple of years, worked at the job centre for a bit before moving to Australia for 3 years. Summer 2013 I came back to the UK because my mental health was in a bad way and for that reason and a few others I’ve lived at home with my parents ever since. It’s been challenging for a variety of reasons and my health has impacted us all. But we are all still smiling…just! And without their love and never ending support I honestly would not be writing this today.

So back to my daily antics. Well in my parents eyes I don’t have a job. They know I ‘do Arbonne’ but they see it as something I’m doing for a bit of extra cash and to keep busy. If it hadn’t been for the positive impact this business has had on me and my mental health they’d be dead against it by now. Not because they don’t agree with what I’m doing but because they’re seeing how much time and energy I’m putting into this and I guess after they’ve watched me go through some seriously shitty times they don’t want to see me disappointed again. So they’re wary, but it’s from a place of concern and love.

Anyway the biggest challenge for me trying to build a business from home is getting my mum to understand that I can’t keep stopping what I’m doing to dry the dishes, whizz round with the Dyson or fold laundry. So we’ve come to an agreement that I do my ‘chores’ and start working at 10am from which time I am not to be interrupted. I mean of course that’s not really how it goes because even though the phone never rings for me I end up answering it. Or Dad needs help ordering something from amazon. But right now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Meet my friend Dyson

So 10am comes and I make my energy brain boost cocktail (strawberry fizz and mind health) and crack on. The next 6 hours minus; about a billion toilet breaks, 3 or 4 Louis being needy moments and covering me in dog hair and of course lunch, I work.

My office…in the conservatory

Now what is work for me at the moment? Well, I start with brainstorming my content. Content for my Instagram, content for my blog and content for my business. When your business is online and you are trying to reach a target audience you need to put out valuable content. Things people relate to, things people can learn from or things people enjoy. I think so many of us are guilty of posting positive or inspirational quotes and I do that too. But that’s not going to help you connect with people, they need to read your words and hear your stories. And let me tell you, sharing that stuff is bloody hard. People are so judgemental it’s ridiculous. As authentic as you are there will always be someone out there who thinks you are boring or attention seeking or melodramatic. To share this kind of stuff you need to look past that and just hope to god your words will reach the right people.

What I’ve learned is that getting your face on camera and talking is probably a quicker way to connect with people. And I know that it’s not really a big deal, BUT I just hate doing it. It’s my biggest weakness. I know it’s stopping me progressing in my business and it’s something I really need to work on. Or just get over my damn self like Romi Neustadt told me to. Actually….I heard good things about Hypnotheraphy so if there are any experts out there please get in touch!

In amongst all of that content creating I’m constantly communicating. With new people, potential clients, people who need help/advice, those who want to know more about what I do and anyone who might want to team up with me for my blog. This is why I love what I do so much, making new connections is exciting and interesting. I’ve made some awesome friends over the last few months as well, true keepers I reckon.

So that’s my working day in a nutshell. There’s a lot more stuff going on like team training, doing my own learning and development but generally that’s how my day pans out until about 4 o clock-ish. I then head out for a walk with Louis which should be a great excuse for some exercise, except after 15mins or so and having had a shit Louis is not interested in walking anymore and we have to head home.

I can never get good photos on our walks so here’s one of him in the garden instead.

When we get back Louis gets fed and I’ll help my Mum with dinner. We all cook but Mum does the majority of it. She normally knocks up traditional Indian food so I’ll help her make the chapattis. My nights in the kitchen tend to result in a cracking fish pie or experimenting with plant based stuff.

Chapatti making

We currently eat together in the kitchen at around 7.30ish. I say currently because there was a time up until recently that we just ate when we felt like it, in front of the TV and not always at the same time. Now relations between us are better (because I’m no longer a nightmare) we try to eat together as much as we can. It’s nice, a time when we can catch up on our day. Which might sound silly with us all at home all day but we are all doing our own little things and dinner time is when we have a little debrief.

After dinner we tend to separate again. But as we are tidying up, doing the dishes etc and when I remember to; I make up my breakfast for the next morning. My favourite chocolate overnight protein oats.

I then head back to the conservatory while my parents are watching TV. Sometimes I carry on with a bit more ‘work’, maybe I’ll read one of my non-personal development books and of course I always have a flick through Netflix options. I used to watch a lot of Netflix, documentaries mostly, but I can’t seem to find any good ones anymore. Louis is fast asleep at this point, so there’s also a lot of time spent staring at him like the obsessed dog momma that I am.

A visit to Grey Sloane Memorial
He sleeps

The parents tend to head up to bed around 10ish and I follow shortly after I’ve kissed dog child goodnight.

I’m now a regular skin care enthusiast so I’ll do my little bedtime routine, clean my pegs and then crawl into bed. Again this used to be more Netflix time for me but these days the early mornings, the improved mental health and calmer mind means that after my head hits that pillow you can guarantee I’ll be out for the count in about 15 minutes or less. I never understood how people could do that, fall asleep within minutes of getting into bed. Now, that’s me and I bloody love it.

So there you have it. A day in the life of, a look through the keyhole and a pretty lack lustre description of my home life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m just a girl, finally finding her way in the world after going through some seriously shitty times. I’ll leave you with a picture of my home, the roof that’s been over my head for the past 33 years give or take. The house where so many memories were made…and where I’m now working towards my dreams.

Home

Authenticity or attention seeking ?

If I’m honest, I don’t even know anymore. I guess it’s subjective? I could post a picture on here where I think I look nice and some would think I’m trying to grab attention. I suppose I am in a way, but not necessarily because I’m all ‘look at me, like my photo’ but mostly because I want people to read my captions. Again, not for popularity purposes but because I think at least some of the stuff I have to say might be helpful to someone out there. And I think if we’re all honest a slightly more aesthetic photo is more likely to get someone to stop scrolling then one where I look like shite.

They say social media, (Instagram in particular) is a highlight reel of people’s lives and people only post what they want you to see, which I agree with to some extent. But I think it totally depends on what you are using it for. My Instagram has gone through phases. It started out as an app where I posted the occasional photo before transforming into quite a health and fitness page. That phase of my life was inconsistent to say the least. I was either all in or on the couch. And if I was on the couch my mental health struggles were often on fire, fuelled of course by alcohol. Either way at the time I thought I was being authentic. But was I really? I know for a fact everything I posted was real, but it’s more what I ‘chose’ not to post that puts a question mark over my integrity. The bad workouts, the unflattering angles, the sweat patches. The stuff that basically didn’t look so pretty or impressive, that was kinda neglected so maybe I did only show the highlight reel.

These days those who’ve followed me through my trials and tribulations will see that my Instagram is focussed on my lifestyle blog, my mental health and soberiety, my health and wellness business AND me just sharing a bunch of life lessons and lightbulb moments because….well because I believe that I have some things of value to offer people. Whether that be nuggets of wisdom, solutions to problems or even just a friendly face and an ear to listen. And I think this is the first time I’ve really appreciated what it is to be authentic. I think I can safely say that prior to February 11th of this year I wasn’t authentic. I wasn’t going around trying to be fake but my mental health was so bad at times, even I didn’t know who I really was. And I’m pretty sure if you don’t know who you are, you can’t be authentic.

When I stopped drinking on February 11th 2020, I started a new journey. One of self discovery, personal growth and just learning to understand myself better. Only now do I think I’m seeing my true self, and that’s why I think it’s only now I can say I’m being authentic. And I think when you achieve that level of authenticity you start to notice those around you that aren’t quite there yet. I’m seeing it everyday in my business, all over social media and even in people close to me. It’s not their fault, they might not even realise. And being true to the core, voicing YOUR beliefs, following your own path even if it means upsetting those around you is not easy! In fact it can be really fucking scary.

I saw a post on LinkedIn a few weeks back. Someone asked a question and it turned into quite a…I want to say debate but it was actually more like an excuse to take the piss out of people who show emotion. So the question was something along the lines of ‘why do people feel the need to cry on their social media?’. Now, there wasn’t much more said in the initial post but the comments…wow! Some of the words I saw: Attention seeking, no-one needs to see or hear that, have some dignity, why wouldn’t you just pick up the phone and call someone? Ridiculous, cringey, how embarrassing. These comments went on into the 100s! I was stunned and to be honest extremely fucked off by these responses. Someone’s tears could literally be a cry for help because they have no one else to turn to.

I try not to get into these keyboard battles but I took this one personally. So I rolled up my sleeves and started typing.

My response

I did get a response from the author of the post about it being jest but in today’s current climate, when mental health struggles are rife I didn’t see the funny side of it. What it did get me thinking about was the actually meaning of the phrase ‘attention seeking’. Am I right in thinking we use this with a negative connotation attached? Because that’s the only time I’ve ever heard it used. And when you think about it, all it means is looking to gain somebody’s attention. So really, this could be for all manner of reasons. You could be seeking attention because you’re in danger, or trying to get yourself noticed for your talents, it doesn’t necessarily have to be because you’re desperate for validation or want to have all eyes on you. And personally, I think showing that kind of raw emotion on social media whether it’s intentional or not is closer to authenticity then it is to attention seeking. Maybe I’m wrong?!

I’m noticing that this post does not have a clear direction. I don’t feel like it’s heading towards any big finale. Which I find disappointing. I always like to end with something poignant or dramatic. But perhaps this post doesn’t have a clear ending because there’s no clear answer. Being authentic is more than just being yourself. You have to know what that self is. And what I’ve learned is that through no fault of our own too many of us don’t really know who we are. Society has moulded us without us noticing and sometimes it takes a big life event (one that perhaps say involves wearing masks and staying indoors a lot) to make us stop and ask ourselves the questions. Am I being my authentic, true self? Am I attention seeking or just trying to stand out? Whatever your thoughts and opinions I think these are questions we need to ask ourselves…and probably more than once!

Dear alcohol

“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye. Life will reward you with a new hello” ⁃ Paul Coelho

It’s been 164 days since we were last together. Feels longer doesn’t it?

I wasn’t sure whether I should write this letter. I was scared of the feelings it would bring up. They say that there is no benefit in going backwards and digging up the past and I get that now. But with you, for us, there was too much left unresolved. I just woke up one day and I didn’t want you anymore and I think you deserve to know why, so here goes.

I didn’t really even like you at first, but all of my friends did so I just thought there must be something about you. So we hung out more and more, always with other people and I guess you grew on me. In fact we had some bloody good times over the years. But I think things took a turn when we started hanging out just the two of us.

Don’t get me wrong you were there for me when nobody else was, when nobody else understood me. And I am grateful for that. But I think you played on my vulnerability and took advantage when I wasn’t in the best headspace. Maybe you didn’t mean to, I don’t know. I don’t really want to know. But in time, you took control of me in the subtlest of ways.

You see I didn’t need you. I knew that and you knew that. But yet you just kept convincing me otherwise. I was lonely and you were there. I thought I could only be myself around you, but the truth is I wasn’t me at all. With you or without you. You changed me. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. The people in my life were getting further and further away from me and now I know that it was because of you. Im not saying you did it on purpose but maybe I wouldn’t have hurt and upset so many people if we hadn’t have gotten so close.

I’m not blaming you for everything that’s happened. And I’m not even angry with you. I’m angry with me, it was all my fault. BUT you definitely didn’t help. It’s weird because you were so not good for me, you were literally destroying me even though I didn’t want to admit it. But I won’t lie, I miss you a bit. I miss the comfort you brought me. Not enough to want you back though, no way. But like I said. There were some good times.

So I guess this is goodbye. But it’s also a request. If you see me around, please don’t talk to me. Don’t even look in my direction. Because the truth is although I know I’m so much better off without you (I mean, look at me. I’m smashing life…finally! better late then never I guess) I’m not sure I could handle it. You have a way of pulling me back in and I’m not quite ready to test this new found strength of mine. Not yet anyway. So as much as it would have been nice if you could have stuck around; we both know that would just have ended in disaster. Like a HUGE fuck off, end of the world type disaster. So, please, just don’t!

We had 20 years of ups and I’m afraid too many downs. So now my friend, I need to go do the next 20+ on my own.

Thank you for each and every lesson

Shaena

I am the 1%

It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.”

– Hans F. Hansen

All my life I’ve felt like the outsider. The one in the group who didn’t quite fit. Apparently, it’s a personality trait of mine but that’s something I’ve only recently discovered. 16personalities says that as an INFP (that’s what I am) the need to be understood is strong. And conforming to the norm or to be part of the crowd, is where that feeling of ‘I don’t belong’ comes from. Because we (INFPs) are not meant to follow the crowd, we aren’t meant to fit in with the majority. We can only be our best selves if we go against the grain.

It’s starting to make so much sense to me now. Wish I’d found this out earlier, but such is life. And really, the way things were going for me I’m just glad that I saw the error of my ways before it was too late.

I often refer to myself as ‘a bit weird’ but I’m not really sure where that’s comes from. Am I weird? What even is weird? If I’m honest I think I felt the need to excuse or explain my being a little different to the norm, so ‘a bit weird’ is what I went with. But why do I even need do that? Why can’t I be happy with just being me and not having to explain myself?

Our individuality is what makes us who we are but I think society makes us feel like we need to tone down certain things. In other words, basically shaming people for who they are. And then because you are made to feel this way you start looking outside of yourself, looking to other people, so you can try and be more like them. The ‘normal’ ones. This conforming has been going on for decades…longer probably but I wouldn’t want to speak for those born before my time.

I think these days what makes it worse is that there are people out there; leaders, influencers, even people close to us who we trust; telling us to be true to ourselves. Preaching that it’s ok to be who you are, imperfections and all. But then we do things that are a little bit different and we come up against frowning faces.

For years I tried to fit in and be part of the crowd because the ones in the crowd seemed to have it together. But did they? Fuck knows. Even if they did it doesn’t mean they were my crowd. But I didn’t know that then so there I was, Shaena the square peg. And I just kept trying to plug myself into every hole that I found that wasn’t square because I just wanted to fit. I just wanted to belong.

But here’s the thing about us square pegs. We aren’t meant for ordinary. There’s nothing wrong with ordinary, don’t get me wrong. But we like to do things differently and at first it’s scary because the majority don’t understand it. They get confused by our choices, actions and beliefs. They don’t know why we keep talking to the universe, why we love spending time alone with our thoughts, why we feel so deeply and fall so hard. Why we aren’t built for office jobs, settling down or just settling full stop. And all of this is okay, they don’t understand us because they’re not our crowd.

When I tried to fit, in I felt isolated. When I tried to do the same as everyone else, I got bored. When I tried to hide my feelings, I suffered with anxiety and depression. When I spoke, I didn’t feel heard. But now I know that it’s okay. Because all these things were like little whispers telling me ‘no Shaena, that’s not you’. And I get it now, I get why.

It’s because I am the 1%.